Hiring Bus Riders

In an episode of the WAER’s City Limits series, reporter Scott Willis talks to people who use Providence Services, a shuttle service that helps get people to and from work at an affordable rate. Willis asked Providence’s riders if they’d ever tried getting to work another way. They all said they’d tried using Centro, but the way the schedules were set up meant either getting to work 2 hours early or 5 minutes late.

That’s a pretty serious problem. If you’ve got any kind of responsibilities outside of work, there aren’t two hours in your day available to spend sitting outside of your job, waiting for your shift to start. If a potential employer is going to require that you give them an extra two hours every day without any kind of compensation, that’s not a job many people can take.

This isn’t just a problem for people trying to find work. It’s also a problem for those employers trying to find workers. The Post-Standard recently published an opinion piece predicting that Syracuse-area companies would soon have tens of thousands of open positions that they wouldn’t be able to find workers to fill. Elsewhere in WAER’s report, Providence Services’ President Deborah Hundley talked about reaching out to employers and hearing that “they want to have a diverse workforce. They want that. The diversity is in the City, but they have to be able to get there.”

When there are plenty of people reliant on Centro to get to work, and there are plenty of companies that want to hire the best candidate for the job–regardless of how that person gets around town–this ‘show up 2 hours early or 5 minutes late’ problem shouldn’t even exist. Employees and managers should be able to agree on a simple solution–whether that’s coming back from lunch 5 minutes early, staying 5 minutes past the end of the shift, or whatever–that gets us past this point where people are stuck without jobs and employers are stuck without workers just because no one can be inconvenienced to find an extra 5 minutes in the day.

What this boils down to is that both the employer and the employee share responsibility for the morning and evening commutes. That’s so obvious for people who drive that it’s easy to forget. Businesses locate on public roads accessible by car. They often provide ample amounts of free parking for employees. Blue Cross Blue Shield took this to such an extreme that it actually built an entirely new office in Dewitt a few years ago because its employees had a hard time parking Downtown. Employers do all of that to accommodate people who commute by car, and then those car commuters are responsible for using all those resources to get to work every day.

It’s the exact same with bus riders. It’s on the employee to catch the bus, pay the fare, make the transfers and all that, but the employer is also responsible for creating a workplace where commuting by bus is a reasonable possibility. The workers that WAER talked to in this City Limits piece were working out at Spectrum near Carrier Circle. Spectrum chose to set up shop in a location with spotty bus service. That’s on them. It’s not too much to ask that they make up for that by being a little flexible with bus riders’ work schedules. If Spectrum, or any other employer, takes on that small responsibility, everybody benefits.